Falling Sideways by Thomas E Kennedy

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Falling Sideways by Thomas E Kennedy

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This book is all about office politics - writ large. A successful Danish company needs to re-assess its workforce in these tough, economic times and some very unpopular decisions are about to be announced.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: November 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1408812396

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Kennedy, although a New Yorker, has lived in Copenhagen for over twenty years so he'll have a good feel for the European slant on the novel, I would think. It is one of four called the Copenhagen Quartet. The top brass, the movers and the shakers at the 'Tank' are introduced to the reader one by one and have a whole chapter devoted to their individual lives, both professional and private. So we get a very good idea indeed of their homes, their neighbourhoods, their families and perhaps more importantly, their thoughts on the Tank and of their colleagues.

Fortysomething Harald is forced to slum it at the moment. He's estranged from his wife and his two young daughters but it's a common opinion that he's only got himself to blame. A known womaniser, his exasperated wife is fed up with his atrocious behaviour. But his pride (or you could also call it vanity) is still intact. He may live in a dump in the wrong part of town, but he still dresses each morning with care in order to impress the ladies (anyone with a pulse really). He's insatiable.

Another top-drawer employee is Birgitte. She's beautiful and good at her job. Beauty as well as brains. A lethal combo. Most of her colleagues admire (or simply lust after) her. Her drippy husband Lars is a let-down. He doesn't really deserve this amazing wife of his.

As others appear in the storyline, I would describe Kennedy's style as pretty straightforward. But he does tell a good story. I was able to get a good sense of the office atmosphere as we visited it on various days. Most of us, I think, are aware that the office can be a minefield for some: the whispers, the back-chat, the back-stabbing, the fawning ... I've worked in various office environments myself so I was really able to appreciate and also read between the lines, of this book. The humour is also good.

Here's a snippet of office jealousy. Harald has been promoted ... a memo goes round inviting everybody in for coffee and cake to celebrate Harald's promotion. And Claus had to go in and eat fucking dry cake ... Kennedy describes in detail how these half a dozen or so characters (mainly youngish, with families and big fat mortgages but also highly ambitious) all have to meet regularly every Wednesday in the Mumble Club. And yes, you can take the name literally, if you wish. It is all about time-wasting with a capital 'T'. Everyone sits round the boardroom table and tries to look bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Some are more successful than others. But really they're wondering what it's all about, is there a purpose to this and what the hell am I doing here? ... While these thoughts are going on Fingers caressed the handles of cups of steaming coffee ... eyes were sleepy in enjoyment ...

And the thing is, everyone would probably have happily carried on in this fashion. Wasteful. Unproductive. But times are tough. Downsizing is on the agenda. And then things get really nasty as some show their true colours. This novel is a shrewd, funny and clever observation of office behaviour. It will have resonance with some of us: those who hate their job, those who glory in being a jumped-up boss, those who would rather be doing something else, those who sit and count down the hours ... This is an enjoyable book.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag. We also have a review of Kerrigan in Copenhagen by Thomas E Kennedy.

If this book appeals then you might like to try Personal Days by Ed Park.

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Buy Falling Sideways by Thomas E Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Falling Sideways by Thomas E Kennedy at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Falling Sideways by Thomas E Kennedy at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Falling Sideways by Thomas E Kennedy at Amazon.com.


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